By Steve Lichtenstein
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Depreciation is a concept for which I am well-versed through my previous life as an accountant. Certain assets lose value over time until such a point that they are almost worthless, possibly redeemable for mere scrap called salvage value.READ MORE: 2nd Former Aide Accuses Gov. Andrew Cuomo Of Sexual Harassment, Governor Requests Independent Review
Example A in the NBA is Nets point guard Deron Williams.
Back in February 2011, then New Jersey Nets general manager Billy King surrendered the equivalent of three first-round draft picks (when you consider that power forward Derrick Favors was chosen third overall by the Nets the prior summer) plus Devin Harris to Utah in order to secure Williams’ services.
That may have been premium shopping by King, but at the time Williams was compared favorably with Chris Paul as the league’s preeminent point guard. In many people’s minds, D-Will was a max-contract player, and he was such rewarded by Brooklyn with a five-year $98 million deal when he became a free agent in the summer of 2012.
It’s been a downward slide ever since for D-Will. Injuries, mainly to his ankles, deprived him of many of his diversified skills. Once Williams was known as a player who could both take you off the dribble or bury you from long range; unfortunately, the pain caused him to lose his explosiveness at the rim and the lift on his jump shot.
Then there were the alleged issues inside his head. His leadership skills have been questioned, he earned a reputation as one who would routinely perform well below expectations in fourth quarters and in big games, and some in the media labelled him a coach killer after the Nets fired Avery Johnson in December 2012.
Though supposedly healthy this season before a strained right calf forced Williams out of Sunday’s 110-105 Nets’ home victory over hapless Detroit, there has been something missing from his game.
From my observations, he has looked spry enough to defend even the quickest point guards in the league and then make them look foolish on the other end with a series of crossover moves. However, he’s not finishing plays consistently.
It’s supposed to be a rule that if you put your defender on skates, you’re supposed to make the shot.
Except that Williams has been shooting just 40 percent from the floor–including a disturbing 47 percent at the rim–per basketball-reference.com. Though his three-point shooting efficiency this season (38 percent) is in line with his career average, Williams’ mid-range game has at best been erratic.
A player who in 2012 once dropped 57 points on Charlotte, Williams has breached the 20-point barrier just twice in 25 games this season.
So how far down has Williams fallen in the NBA point guard rankings?
Here’s a list of players at the position in addition to Paul who, in my opinion, have unquestionably eclipsed Williams (in no particular order going down the standings in the East and the West):
Kyle Lowry, Jeff Teague, John Wall, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Mike Conley, Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker, Goran Dragic, Russell Westbrook and Ty Lawson.READ MORE: NYPD: Good Samaritan Killed, 3 Hurt In Stabbing Linked To Illegal Brooklyn Gambling Den
That would put Williams almost exactly in the middle of the pack–before you take into account his age (30) or that few teams have both the desire and the ability to take on the $43.3 million hit to their salary cap over the next two years. Those issues would dissuade teams with young point guards like Milwaukee (with Brandon Knight) or Charlotte (Kemba Walker) from looking at Williams as an upgrade.
So of course King, ever the wily dealer, has decided that now—with Williams’ value is at a career low– is the time to start listening to offers. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported that Sacramento has been exploring the possibility of working a trade to acquire Williams.
As expected, the Kings’ reported consideration for Williams is mostly scrap. Names bandied about include point guard Darren Collison (a backup forced into a starter’s role despite being a younger and faster version of Brooklyn’s Jarrett Jack), forward Derrick Williams (a bust of a former 2nd-overall draft pick) and Jason Thompson (a tweener big who a few years ago put up decent numbers for bad teams).
I’m sure my advice to King would echo most Nets fans: Take it!
The Yahoo report mentioned that the Kings were looking to expand the package to include Nets center Mason Plumlee and if that’s the case, King properly turned that down.
Now if they want to talk about Brook Lopez…
I’m not as gung-ho over Plumlee as most fans are, but there’s no question he’s been playing his best ball of the season over the last two weeks in place of the brittle Lopez, who on Sunday missed his eighth straight game with a back strain. By sticking to the basics (running the floor, dives to the rim off pick-and-rolls, rebounding activity on both backboards), Plumlee has value that Sacramento won’t equitably return to Brooklyn.
D-Will, on the other hand, is virtually a fully-depreciated asset on the Nets. There’s not much of a market for an oft-injured, overpriced and underperforming 30-year-old point guard.
On top of that, the Nets want to clear as much money off their cap prior to the 2016-17 season, when Williams surely won’t opt out of receiving the final $22.3 million due on his contract on his own.
This King Error is surely headed for demolition. The 2014-15 Nets may step into the postseason through the back door as an eighth seed, but the current roster construction makes them fundamentally flawed, miles from true contention.
As much as I don’t trust King to piece together a beneficial deal in the blowup, who knows when he’ll get another chance to unload the man he once settled on to become the face of the franchise?
If King can get Sacramento to bite on a trade without having to give up useful young players like Plumlee, then I would urge him to salvage what he could for D-Will now.
For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Jets and the NHL, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.
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